The Material Basis for Artistic Choices

Blane R. Hirsh

Often when considering art history, each part about the piece is important to understand the whole. Each of these parts can be individually dissected to reveal a greater understanding of the whole piece. Moreover, the material itself may either limit or accentuate the details of the piece, providing enhanced colors, form, or clarity. Marble statues and oil paintings evolved and flourished in Renaissance Europe due to the artistic craving for naturalism, or as natural representation as possible. A thorough study of Michelangelo's Pieta supports this claim. Michelangelo's goal is to depict forms as graceful and delicate; tools and nuances of the material came to match Renaissance aspirations perfectly. Vermeer's View of Delft explored oil painting in ways that no one had ever before, reaching new heights with the endless possibilities oils provide over their outdated acrylic and fresco counterparts. This desire for picture perfect detail catalyzed a revolution in the way artists sought materials that helped them realize goals; presented with this new necessity, new ways emerged to satisfy this aspiration.

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